Sarah Jones loves reside music a lot, she even received engaged at a gig.
As Prince returned for the encore throughout his legendary 2007 O2 residency and struck up the opening chords to Purple Rain, excessive up in one of many packing containers, Jones – an enormous fan of the Purple One – rotated to search out her then-boyfriend, now-husband down on one knee.
“I simply couldn’t communicate,” she laughs. “I used to be like, ‘How did you get that previous me?’”
Even nowadays, she’s nonetheless an avid gig-goer, and Jones – who was born in Wales however grew up in Essex – has no scarcity of tales about how reside music has been a key part in a few of her life’s best moments.
She fizzes with enthusiasm for the expertise, whether or not speaking about her first ever gig (U2 on the previous Cardiff Arms Park) or the newest present she noticed (Self Esteem on the O2 Discussion board Kentish City); the traditional rock gigs she’s taken her dad and mom to in an effort to repay them for uplifting her love of music within the first place, or the time she held Eddie Vedder’s hand as he reached into the gang at a Pearl Jam present.
“He had a bottle of pink in a single hand and my hand within the different,” she laughs. “Did he say something to me? I believe he was similar to, ‘Let go of my hand!’”
And now, as Normal Supervisor of Songkick, the Warner Music Group-owned live performance discovery service, she sees it as her mission to ensure the platform’s customers by no means miss out on their very own alternative to take pleasure in equally mind-blowing reside
“I do suppose reside music adjustments lives,” she grins. “I don’t suppose there’s something that may match standing on that sticky flooring with a heat pint in a plastic glass, sharing [the experience] along with your mates.”
Fittingly for a former BBC government – she spent 14 years on the company, most just lately as Head of Digital & Operations, Enterprise Improvement, having began her profession as a media analyst with Ebiquity – she sees Songkick very a lot as a “public service”, serving to to make sure punters don’t miss out on the gigs they need to see, whereas artists, venues and promoters get to achieve everybody that may doubtlessly take pleasure in what they do on stage.
And it’s a service that the general public appear to be embracing. Jones says Songkick now has over 20 million customers all over the world and reviews a post-pandemic “vital surge in world customers”, significantly in rising markets, as demand for reside leisure spiked as quickly as lockdowns lifted.
It has, nonetheless, taken some time for everybody to understand Songkick’s worth. Launched in 2007 as a start-up live performance discovery platform/social community by Ian Hogarth, Michelle You and Pete Smith, in its early years it typically appeared to be a good suggestion in the hunt for a viable enterprise mannequin.
It later merged with CrowdSurge and moved into direct-to-fan ticketing, pioneering anti-scalping expertise. In 2016, it reportedly bought almost 500,000 tickets for Adele’s tour however, the next 12 months, it turned embroiled in an antitrust authorized dispute with Ticketmaster.
That carried on individually after WMG purchased the live performance discovery a part of the enterprise in 2017 (Warner mum or dad Access Industries had been an investor within the firm). Live Nation/Ticketmaster ultimately settled the case out of courtroom, paying $110m and buying Songkick’s ticketing property as a part of the method.
After all, that was all earlier than Jones’ time (she joined Songkick as Industrial Director in 2018 earlier than graduating to the highest job final 12 months) and she or he is understandably cautious of the topic, eager to emphasize that Songkick works harmoniously in partnership with all main ticketing firms, Ticketmaster included.
Equally, whereas Songkick could also be owned by Warner, Jones highlights that it’s a part of its WMX providers division, faraway from the recorded music and music publishing components of the enterprise, and works with artists signed to all file firms.
Jones has massive plans to construct on Songkick’s present place. She is proud to preside over an inclusive office tradition, with a 50/50 gender employees break up – nearly unprecedented for an organization with expertise at its core.
An workplace refurb (Songkick continues to be based mostly out in Shoreditch’s Silicon Roundabout enclave, though she’s travelled west to Warner Music HQ for in the present day’s chat with MBW) and rebrand are on the best way, and she or he guarantees a relaunch of “our entire trade product set within the subsequent 12 months”, to capitalise on the success of Songkick’s Tourbox device, which helps artists, managers and brokers handle and market their
With the pandemic (hopefully) receding within the rear-view mirror, Jones believes Songkick has gone full circle to return to one thing near a beefed-up model of its unique idea.
“Three individuals needed to unravel an issue for followers [so they’d] by no means miss one other present, in order that they began scraping the web and created this product,” she says. “We’re actually near that DNA now. We’re attending to the hearts of audiences’ points, actually going again to that utility, however on a a lot greater scale.”
Warner doesn’t get away separate figures for Songkick, however Jones insists the platform is now “a extremely steady, revenue-generating enterprise”.
She stays just a little cagey on the main points of precisely how Songkick makes that cash (primarily a mixture of promoting, monetisation of its B2B merchandise and fee on ticket gross sales by means of third social gathering distributors). However, luckily, given the whole lot occurring proper now within the reside music market Songkick serves, Sarah Jones has a lot to say on nearly the whole lot else…
Being at a live performance discovery service will need to have been difficult through the pandemic, when there have been no concert events to be found?
The pandemic taught us rather a lot about enterprise inside reside music, however it’s been nice to get again to regular. We did numerous pivoting, ran just a few livestreams, checked out worldwide commerce and did numerous localisation, so we have been nonetheless very busy.
Did you ever fear it was throughout for reside music?
No. I’ve been across the block just a few instances. It was clearly unprecedented, however the pandemic taught us how essential reside music is. In 2022, the market simply went nuts and got here again so robust. Reside music is such a vital a part of individuals’s lives. We’ve seen the entire experiential financial system growth because the pandemic.
Though now there’s a cost-of-living disaster. What impact will which have on reside music?
Reside music is discretionary spend for shoppers. It’s very a lot within the reasonably priced luxurious class. However individuals nonetheless need to be collectively. That sense of connection and neighborhood is admittedly essential, as a result of we didn’t have it for thus lengthy.
I imply, have a look at what’s occurring for the time being: [tours from] Madonna, Beyoncé, Taylor [Swift]… I don’t suppose we’ve ever seen a 12 months prefer it. You’ll nonetheless see gigs be a powerful a part of that discretionary spend.
Lots of people within the trade are nonetheless involved in regards to the future although. If there are too many gigs and never sufficient cash to go spherical, absolutely somebody’s going to lose out?
Saturation may very well be a problem within the subsequent 12 months. What Songkick focuses on is connecting artists with customers who actually need to go to a present. And our trade instruments are there for artists to actually assist them, whether or not it’s a saturated market or a dry market.
What for those who’re a grassroots venue and you may’t afford such issues?
Nicely, numerous our providers are completely free on the level of use. It’s actually powerful on the market. We’re engaged on some initiatives with grassroots venues and it’s one thing that we actually do care about.
Are you able to give us any details about these initiatives?
Not at current, no.
How does Songkick match with the remainder of the Warner Music empire?
Songkick is common. It’s label agnostic, DSP agnostic, ticketing firm agnostic…
So agnostic that you just simply used the phrase ‘Universal’ to explain it…
[Laughs] Yeah! We work with everybody and that’s actually on the coronary heart of what we do. Sure, it’s nice being a part of a file label, as a result of it provides us actual perception into the way to assist artists, however it’s all about us having our personal autonomy.
Are every other music firms ever suspicious due to who owns Songkick?
No, I’ve truly by no means skilled that. We might by no means need to be perceived as a propaganda device. I’ve taken care of the industrial facet of the enterprise for 4 years now and I undoubtedly place it inside that impartial house.
What did you make of the current Taylor Swift ticket sale furore?
It’s an actual problem when you’ve got alternatives which are that massive. And it’s actually gutting for those who’re a fan and you actually need to get to a present. I’m positive there are numerous classes which were discovered across the scale of demand.
I don’t suppose we’re seeing that play out with Beyoncé, for instance. It’s an entry problem. How do you create that equitable entry to having the ability to get Taylor Swift tickets? Everybody’s strong expertise and methods and the way you tempo a sale. There are numerous issues that may very well be finished in a different way, but additionally, it’s an enormous artist.
What’s the typical Songkick consumer like?
There’s not a median Songkick consumer. We have now everybody, from [age] three to 66. I care simply as a lot about dad and mom having the ability to purchase a gig ticket transparently as [I do] Gen Z.
It should be a problem catering for everybody from hardcore music followers to individuals who solely go to at least one gig a 12 months?
I do suppose the utility that we’re providing is effective for each eventualities. And for those who’re going to at least one gig, you’re going to search out out about 10 extra. Perhaps you’ll flip right into a two or three or 4 gigs a 12 months individual.
Should you may change one factor about in the present day’s music trade, proper right here and now, what wouldn’t it be and why?
I really feel actually passionately in regards to the evolution of the reside music trade within the transparency house. That’s a extremely essential transfer for everybody.
It’s been a very long time coming, however look how rapidly we went to cellular tickets. So many providers have globalised and turn out to be digitised in a single day by means of necessity [during the pandemic].
There could be numerous thriller and complexity round reside music and I see our position as demystifying all of that.
We’re right here to make issues easy. It actually shouldn’t be that arduous to have the ability to get a ticket to a present. And it shouldn’t be that arduous to learn about that present coming in.
And what’s going to success appear like for the brand new Songkick just a little additional down the road?
We have to ensure that our model and id actually speaks to who we’re. We might be globally increasing and launching in a number of languages.
I name it being ‘glocal’ – being a world model at scale, however being domestically related. Songkick has an actual alternative to be the house for reside music, an actual in-house client model that’s there as a device to assist individuals get to gigs.
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